Today’s installment of Two Good, Two Bad will see me take a look at Newcastle United (again) and the coaches to take charge of the team.
Two Good, Two Bad – How does it work?
The premise of Two Good, Two Bad will see the author, namely me, pick a subject such as seasons, moments, players or managers.
Then, I’ll select either my team (Newcastle United), the Premier League or even England. With those guidelines, I’ll give you the two best and two worst particular examples of the subject matter from over the course of my lifetime/fandom.
Today, as mentioned at the top, I’m continuing with Newcastle managers – but given that I was born in 1998, they only count if they were manager after than AND I can remember them.
Very easy place to start. Not even a question that Steve McClaren was going to be the first name on the list for the worst managers at Newcastle in my lifetime. He inherited a decent squad, spent a lot of money and still got us relegated.
Over the season, McClaren spent £81m on players like Georginio Wijnaldum, Florian Thauvin, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Jonjo Shelvey, Andros Townsend and Chancel Mbemba.
If you add the existing players, i.e the likes of Ayoze Perez, Cheick Tiote, Papiss Cisse, Moussa Sissoko, Siem de Jong, Jamaal Lascelles, Fabricio Coloccini etc – there is NO way in hell that team should have ever have been relegated.
At times, they threatened to be half decent – beating Norwich City 6-2 in October, Liverpool 2-0 and Spurs 2-1 away. There was quality in the squad, but McClaren failed to get it out of them.
After a humiliating 3-1 loss to newly promoted Bournemouth at home, McClaren was sacked and replaced by Rafa Benitez for the last ten games. By then, the damage was so bad that even a world class manager like Benitez couldn’t fix it and we went down.
This appointment stunk from the outset – the fans weren’t at all happy about, especially given the big names who’d been linked previous to him. It turned out to be one of the worst decisions Mike Ashley has ever made and it led to a second relegation in less than a decade.
Honestly, there’s very little to say for this appointment other than just… wow. The on-field performances have been worse from many a manager over our history, but it was the off-field stuff that puts Kinnear on this list.
In his very first interview with the press as Newcastle boss, he verbally abused journalists and swore repeatedly. He then declared he would only speak with local press, banishing all national publications from the press events.
On the pitch, Newcastle picked up five wins, 10 draws and 11 losses over the course of Kinnear’s short stint as manager. He was set to be offered the position on a permanent basis but quit the role in February having been admitted to hospital with heart problems.
In the two weeks prior to that happening, United had lost Shay Given and Charles Nzogbia in the transfer window – spreading an already thin squad even thinner. The wins throughout the course of the season, across all four different managers who led the team, were just too scarce – as a result, Newcastle were relegated.
Over his tenure, Kinnear managed a win rate in the league of just 22.22% – even Steve McClaren’s was higher. Between all the off-field politics that led to his appointment, the poor performances on the field and the pathetic conduct with the media – Kinnear was by far and away my least favourite Newcastle manager ever.
He even came back a few years later in a directorial role. His highlights from that period included calling Yohan Cabaye “Yohan Kebab” and suggesting the club sign young left-back Shane Ferguson from Birmingham City, despite the fact he was only on-loan at Birmingham… from Newcastle.
Rafa Benitez is the best manager I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying at Newcastle in the years I’ve been old enough to understand everything that was going on. He took over the team when we were in a tough spot, and stuck with his to help us through.
When he took over at the end of the 2015/16 season, he had a clause inserted in his contract stating that he was free to leave if he couldn’t stop the slide and save Newcastle from relegation. Of course, he didn’t manage that.
I distinctly remember the final game of the season against Spurs. We’d already been relegated and despite that, the stadium was packed to the rafters. The fans turned up to make their point to Rafa – We want you to stay.
For the whole 90 minutes, the noise was deafening as the fans serenaded Benitez. I was present in the stadium and, despite the circumstances, it’s one of my favourite footballing memories. Of course, we were successful and Rafa stuck around for the Championship season.
The Championship season was very enjoyable, and United were promoted back to the top division at the first time of asking. Back in the Premier League, he led an underfunded squad to a top half finish.
Last season was his final season under contract. Before he committed his future, Benitez wanted assurances of the clubs ambition to grow. He, unsurprisingly, failed to see that from Ashley and co and as such, allowed his contract to expire and moved on.
Letting Benitez go was the final straw for many a Newcastle fan and all throughout this, now delayed, season, fans have been boycotting St James’ Park. It got so bad that the club even had to give away free season tickets.
The club were foolish to let Benitez leave, but at the end of the day, the only ambition they have is to survive. They’re happy to bumble along in mid-table, picking up their TV money every season. Rafa wasn’t willing to do that – and rightly so too.
Sir Bobby Robson
My earliest memories of Newcastle United come from the period of time wherein Sir Bobby was manager of the team. He was so incredibly adored by the people of this city, and for good reason too.
Sir Bobby led a talented Newcastle squad on European adventures, including a trip to the semi-final of the UEFA Cup. In total, he won 119 of his 255 matches in charge of the team, drawing 64 and losing 72. He enjoyed a win percentage of 46.47 – second only to Kevin Keegan for Newcastle in the Premier League.
Sir Bobby Robson was my hero – and even though he passed away over a decade ago, I still think about him most days. The man is a legend on Tyneside, and I’m so incredibly proud I was able to see him before he called it a day.
Rest well, Sir Bobby. We miss you.